By Deborah Hopkins, August 16, 2017
Lately, FELTG has begun offering classes on dealing with threats of violence in the federal workplace. It seems that there’s a workplace shooting just about every day, and if you can believe it, government workplaces (including state and local) experience about twice the amount of workplace violence as do private sector employment facilities.
Violence should be taken seriously and in my humble opinion, violence in the workplace is usually a first-strike-and-you’re-out offense. Even threats of violence should be taken seriously. It’s just not worth it to gamble with people’s lives. Aaron Alexis, the contractor who committed the Navy Yard mass shooting in 2013, had a history of violent behavior in the Navy – violent behavior that went uncharged and therefore was under the radar when he applied for his contractor job.
Here are some recent cases where agencies removed employees for violent behavior, and the removals were upheld.
Removal for conduct unbecoming a supervisor was upheld when evidence showed the supervisor threatened multiple employees with the comment, “I’ll skull f*ck you.” Hamel v. DHS, DE-0752-15-0039-I-2 (July 31, 2017).
Removal for conduct prejudicial to the best interests of the service was upheld where evidence showed that an employee: 1) Upset that her leave request was denied, pulled a gun from her car and showed it to the supervisor who had denied the request, and 2) Stood at the door to her supervisor’s office, pointed her finger at him and made a noise as if she were firing a gun. Hicks v. USDA, AT-0752-16-0105-I-1 (September 16, 2016) (NP).
Removal for patient abuse was upheld where the employee, a certified nursing assistant, slapped a patient in the face after he bit her finger. Mitchell v. VA, DC-0752-15-0645-I-1 (May 27, 2016) (NP)
Removal was upheld where the appellant, upset about unresolved leave and pay issues, wrote a letter to her Congressman complaining about the agency and asking “Must more blood [ ] be shed before changes occur?” The appellant also asked a high-level supervisor if she recalled the shootings at Camp Lejeune and Fort Hood and then told her that her first- and second-level supervisors should be careful and should leave [the appellant] alone. Jolly v. Army, AT-0752-15-0013-I-1 (April 15, 2016) (NP).
Violent behavior also creates potential EEO issues. A supervisor’s failure to take prompt and effective corrective action, when a coworker made racially discriminatory threats of violence against the complainant, created agency EEO liability amounting to $125,000, and created severe health problems for the complainant: anxiety, difficulty concentrating, a loss of appetite, high blood pressure, severe headaches, relationship problems, loss of motivation to work, insomnia, weight gain, and paranoia that the coworker would physically harm his family. Vaughn C. v. USAF, EEOC Appeal No. 0120151396 (April 15, 2016).
I have a bunch more, but you get the idea. There’s just no place for people like this in the federal civil service.
In case you’re interested in learning more, FELTG is offering a webinar on the topic: Handling Violence and Threats of Violence in the Federal Workplace on September 7. You really can’t afford to miss this one. Hopkins@FELTG.com